Christian Persecution Worldwide Has Become A Metastasizing Cancer

Religious Freedom Coalition, By Andrew E. Harrod, PhD, Jan. 24, 2015

The “cancer of Christian persecution is metastasizing” in an “epidemic” that is “spreading at an unprecedented rate in modern times,” stated Open Doors USA president David Curry at a January 7 briefing in Washington, DC’s National Press Club.  Curry’s presentation before an audience of about 30 of Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List (WWL) depressingly reviewed ongoing Christian martyrdom, often at the hands of Marxists and Muslims.

The WWL, an Open Doors press release noted, is a unique annual survey of the persecuted church worldwide, praised by Curry as the most dependable study of its kind.  Open Doors research is “meticulous,” concurred at the briefing religious freedom scholarNina Shea from the Hudson Institute.  The WWL “ranks the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous and difficult to be a Christian,” the press release explained.  An accompanying map displayed at the briefing and available online with the report showed these countries coded by color according to persecution severity.

“Approximately 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide, making them one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world,” the press release observed.  “This year, the threshold was higher for a country to make the list, indicating that worldwide levels of persecution have increased.”  Curry noted that the number of Christians dying for their faith has more than doubled since last year’s WWL.  “While the year 2014 will go down in history for having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era,” the press release elaborated, “current conditions suggest the worst is yet to come.”

Church destroyed in Aleppo, Syria by Sunni rebels associated with the Free Syrian Army

Church destroyed in Aleppo, Syria by Sunni rebels associated with the Free Syrian Army

North Korea, with an estimated 70,000 Christians imprisoned according to the press release, headed the list for the 13th consecutive year and appeared blood red (“Extreme Persecution”) on the map.  No other regime is so “militantly atheistic” as North Korea’s “Stalinist brand,” Shea observed, where the regime suppresses any competition to what Curry described as a “cult worship.”  North Korea exemplifies in Shea’s words how “remnant Communist” countries like China (list place 29, colored green for “Moderate Persecution”) are one significant source of Christian persecution.  Another threat came from “nationalist regimes,” Shea noted, such as the “Hindu fundamentalism” cited by the press release in India.

Shea’s third “Islamist” category,” however, was the largest threat in the WWL.  “Islamic extremism is the main source of persecution in 40 of the 50 countries,” the press release noted, including India, where both Islam and Hinduism endangered Christianity from various quarters.  “This relatively small but virulent strain of ideology,” Curry assessed, “has made the Middle East the most perilous region of the world for Christians.”  “More than 70 percent of Christians have fled Iraq since 2003,” the press release calculated, “and more than 700,000 Christians have left Syria since the civil war began in 2011.”  Bright red accordingly marked majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and beyond on the WWL map, including Afghanistan and Iraq, two lands where the United States attempted with much blood and treasure to create stable, free societies.

For Shea, “intensifying persecution” of Christians in Muslim countries makes the word “so inadequate” that Shea prefers “religious cleansing” to describe a campaign of “total Islamization” eliminating non-Muslims.  Under the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a “completion of religious cleansing” of Christians as well as Yazidis has occurred in western Iraq, Shea stated.  Absent effective remedies, a “2,000 year-old church will be completely gone,” part of an “attack on the entire Christian presence in the region.”

Iraqi Christians have fled to Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region, where Kurds have “put out a welcome mat” and demonstrated that not all Muslims are hostile.  Unlike half a million Muslims who have fled ISIS there as well, though, the Christians lack regional allies and often avoid United Nations camps where international aid deliveries and refugee registration occur.  Accordingly, Iraqi Christians are suffering a “humanitarian crisis so dire” that it is an “existential threat,” Shea warned.

Referencing Sudan and Iran’s Islamic republics, Shea worried about “extremist influences being mainstreamed” in society and government beyond jihadist groups like ISIS.  The Iraqi government in the past, for example, marginalized Christians, who were therefore “dealt out of the deck” in the distribution of American aid.  Governments in Muslim countries likewise often turn a “blind eye and deaf ear” to persecution of Christians by private actors.

In particular, Saudi Arabia, a “towering figure within Islam” with oil resources, regional Gulf predominance, and control over Islam’s holy sites, has been “very counterproductive” by “spreading an ideology of hatred.”  Thus Saudi textbooks demonize non-Muslims and advocate “violent jihad” in Islam’s name.  As a result, “Saudi Arabia did create its own monster” in ISIS, a group Saudi Arabia has now attacked with air strikes, Shea observed.

Shea identified five “red flags” that characterize the “crime against humanity” of “religious cleansing,” elements taken together that are “greater than the sum of their parts.”  “Forcible conversion,” for example, presented Christians with Islamic law’s traditional trinity of choosing between death, conversion to Islam, or acceptance of “medieval dictates” in a “second-class citizenship.”  Nigeria’s Boko Haram “ruthlessly…applied” these alternatives during door to door searches of villages.  Laws also punished blasphemy and apostasy in Muslim countries such as Pakistan, whose “strictest black letter law” in this matter gave a “license to kill” to Muslim vigilantes.  Targeted assassination of Christian leaders, abductions, and targeted attacks on churches completed Shea’s list.

Like Curry, though, Shea assured that “prominent Muslim voices” and the “majority of Muslims” oppose religious persecution.  Shea asserted that Middle Eastern Christians “have long coexisted with the Muslim majority” in the region.  By contrast, Shea described as “extremists” the perpetrators of the Paris Charlie Hebdo jihad attacks on the very day of her remarks.

Yet the widespread, often state-based Muslim persecution of Christians noted by Shea and the WWL seemed to belie Shea’s confidence and suggest problems larger than a radical minority.  Various Middle Eastern Christians, meanwhile, have consistently contradicted Shea in discussions with this reporter (see here, here, and here).  In their experience, faith-based Islamic repression of Christians has marked the region since its eighth century Arab-Muslim conquest.

Queried about Muslim religious tolerance advocates, Shea cited interfaith activist Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal from Jordan and Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.  The latter, Shea noted, has “not encouraged any kind of eradication of Christianity” in his country and has “condemned the attacks on the churches.”  Shea, however, professed ignorance when this reporter mentioned past criticism of Sistani as a “false moderate.”  Sistani, for example, has supported sharia in Iraq, has advocated executing homosexuals, and has expressed anti-Semitic, anti-Christian sentiments against these non-Muslims and their “impurity.”

Similarly asked about moderate Muslims, Curry responded that “I don’t have any names off the top of my head.”  “We have not yet seen a major movement of moderate Muslims to condemn the teachings and ideologies” of groups like ISIS, Curry stated, his professions of a “relatively small” Islamic extremism notwithstanding.  Moderate Muslims “themselves will become a target” of jihadists by advocating for Christians and other persecution victims.

Shea bemoaned Christian persecution as an “ignored human rights crisis” in America among policymakers while “even our religious leaders are far too quiet” on the matter.  “The world still does not get it,” Curry concurred, and called the WWL a “wakeup call” for Christians to notice a “genocide going on.”  No country on the WWL has improved in recent years, Curry stated in an interview, “it’s only gotten worse.”

Shea criticized that secularized American leaders struggle to comprehend a “strong religious belief” in an “extremist version of Islam.”  Voice of America reporter Jerome Socolovsky, previously criticized for obligingly benign views on Islam, similarly seemed to exhibit at the event such incomprehension.  Socolovsky asked Shea whether American domestic respect for Islam, shown by opposition to mosque vandalism or interfaith events like the National Cathedral’s Muslim prayer service, could influence Muslims worldwide.  Shea countered that “there is no comparison” between Muslims protected by American law and often brutal Christian persecution abroad.  “Gestures” like those at the National Cathedral would also not “make a difference whatsoever” among ISIS jihadists and others.

The Nigerian Damaris Atsen gave personal witness at the briefing to the trials and tribulations of modern persecuted Christian faith.  Boko Haram terrorists in March 2010 seized her husband riding home from work and stomped him to death by the road, leaving Atsen widowed with four children, “gifts from the Lord.”  Romans 8:35 (“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”) “always encourages me” that the “spirit of the Lord is there” during her times of mourning, she said.  “I have to forgive,” she added while discussing her husband’s murderers.  “If I do not forgive, the Lord will not forgive me.”  “Pray for Nigeria,” she concluded.

Fight Them Over There

U.S. Marines fight the Taliban in Afghanistan / AP

U.S. Marines fight the Taliban in Afghanistan / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Matthew Continetti, January 16, 2015

Argue about the limits of free speech, the definition of “true” Islam, whether terrorists are lunatics or rational, or the social and political repercussions of terrorism as much as you’d like. The truth is that such debates are irrelevant to the core security problem: There is a growing and energetic movement of radical Muslims dedicated to killing as many people as they can and imposing their will on the rest.

And there is really only one way America can respond to this challenge. We need to kill them first. We need to kill them on a field of battle whose contours are determined not by the terrorists but by us. We need to kill them over there—in the Middle East—before they reach the West.

I realize that for at least the next two years what I propose is wishful thinking. American policy has reverted to a defensive condition in which Islamic terrorists set the terms of conflict. We have been here before. Until 2001, the United States treated Islamic terrorism as a matter of law enforcement. When our embassies were raided or bombed, when our barracks were destroyed, when our soldiers and sailors were murdered, when our World Trade Center was attacked, when our destroyer was damaged, we treated the assailants as members of an Arabic-speaking mafia, as criminals to be apprehended, tried, and punished.

Didn’t work. The jihad grew. It even found a base in Afghanistan, where it could equip and train and plot. In 2001, in a single fall morning, the World Trade Center was destroyed, the Pentagon bludgeoned, and more than 3,000 innocent people were killed.

America rethought its approach to terrorism. No longer were the terrorists considered felons. They were now unlawful combatants. Surveillance, interrogation, and detention policies became more aggressive. We invaded Afghanistan, we toppled the Taliban, and we sent al Qaeda leadership into hiding.

When America invaded Iraq in 2003, al Qaeda and its followers—joining forces with Saddam’s former commanders and marginalized Sunni tribes—designated the Tigris-Euphrates plain the main battleground of the global jihad. Aspiring jihadists, enemies of the West, traveled to Iraq where they encountered, and were killed by, heavily armed and expertly trained U.S. pilots, soldiers, and Marines.

The point of the war on terrorism was not merely to “decimate” the “core of al Qaeda.” The objective was also, in the course of a long struggle, to delegitimize the Qaeda movement and deter its fellow travelers by revealing Islamism as an evolutionary dead end. The unstated message of the strategy was this: If you choose jihad against the West, you will spend your life in Guantanamo or you will die.

Look what happened. By May 2008, plagiarist and emcee Fareed Zakaria could report: “If you set aside” the war in Iraq, “terrorism has in fact gone way down over the past five years.” And soon one did not have to “set aside” Iraq. When the change in strategy and surge of troops Bush ordered in 2007 began to take effect, violence in Iraq went “way down” too.

With the election of President Obama, however, the conflict between Islamism and America entered a third phase. Our troops were removed from the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving Special Forces and drone pilots to do most of the fighting. The defense budget was cut. Harsh interrogation was curtailed, and Guantanamo Bay slowly emptied. Surveillance practices were disrupted. The words “Islamic terrorism” would not be uttered, for that somehow legitimized extremists. As for the terrorists themselves, they were once again treated like criminals.

What has resulted is a dramatic uptick in Islamic radicalism. In January 2014 the RAND Corporation found that “the number of Salafi-jihadist groups and fighters increased after 2010, as well as the number of attacks perpetrated by Al Qaeda and its affiliates.” Attacks including the Ft. Hood massacre; the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi; the Boston Marathon bombing whose victims included an 8-year-old boy; and the public beheading of British Fusilier Lee Rigby.

The absence of American troops in Iraq created an opportunity for ISIS, the Islamic army born of the Syrian civil war. Last summer, from its base in Raqqa, Syria, ISIS invaded Iraq. It captured and imposed sharia law on Mosul, a city of more than a million people, beheaded journalists, and threatened Baghdad, the Kurds, and minority sects with extermination.

ISIS “controls more land and has more weapons than any other jihadist organization in history,”according to experts at the American Enterprise Institute. ISIS is said to possess “more than $2 billion in assets” and command an “estimated 40,000 fighters.” ISIS is expert at “propaganda by the deed”: the spectacular use of public violence to provoke fear in your enemies and loyalty in your friends. There is even an ISIS gift shop. A global movement cowering in fear does not sell tchotchkes.

Nor is ISIS the only jihadist group on the offensive. Yemen has collapsed into a civil war between Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Iranian-backed Houthi militants. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates freely in Libya and Algeria and Mali. Boko Haram slaughtered thousands while expanding its holdings in Nigeria. Al-Shabaab runs central and southern Somalia. Hamas kills Jews from its Gaza satrapy. The Taliban is ready for its comeback in Afghanistan. This swelling of radical Islam—in territory, in resources, in adherents, in scalps—extends to Muslim communities around the world, and to disturbed and alienated men and women hungry to join a winning fight.

The central front of the war on terror is no longer Iraq. It is not Afghanistan. It is the West, and all lands associated with the West. So the radicals strike Israel, they kill in Sydney, they gun down cartoonists and Jews in Paris, they plan to strike the U.S. Capitol with pipe bombs and rifles.

Such a pattern of destruction ought to force a reevaluation of American strategy. But that has not happened. Instead our response to jihadism has been confusing, contradictory, insipid, self-destructive, and inane.

The administration not only skips a solidarity march in Paris. It won’t call the Charlie Hebdo and kosher market attacks Islamic terrorism. The favorite newspaper of the White House is more concerned with the “fear and resentment” of European populations tired of being killed than it is with terrorism. The error-ridden blog edited by one of the president’s favorite pundits says discussions of free speech “often seem more about justifying Islamophobia against everyday Muslims, who are just as overwhelmingly peaceful as every other religious group, than they are about protecting rights that are seriously endangered.”

Guantanamo inmates are released to Oman, which borders Yemen, on the same day an American jihadist is arrested for plotting an attack on the nation’s Capitol. The State Department says it’s okay for Iran—a radical theocracy that is the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world, that sows upheaval from Lebanon to Syria to Iraq to Bahrain to Yemen, that originated the idea of assassinating Western authors who blaspheme Mohammed—to build additional nuclear plants.

The means by which the president reluctantly has attempted to take the fight to the terrorists are not succeeding. Micromanagement by White House officials of the air campaign against ISIS has resulted in a stalemate. American advisers to Iraq say it will take a minimum of three years to prepare the Iraqi army to roll back the Caliphate. Meanwhile our soldiers are subjected to mortar rounds launched from ISIS positions. So passive-aggressive is the president’s war on ISIS that Iraqis are beginning to suggest that “ISIS is a U.S. creation.” One Iraqi told the Wall Street Journal: “The international coalition against ISIS is a comedy act. America can destroy ISIS in one day only, but it does not do it.”

What about Yemen, which President Obama has held up as a model of intervention? Michael Crowley of Politico reports, “Since mid-September, the U.S. has conducted just three drone strikes in Yemen, down from 19 last year, according to data compiled by the New America Foundation. And that was a fraction of the 2012 peak of 56 drone and air strikes.” Yemen and Syria are the key nodes of a global network of financing, training, and planning for jihadist operations. The United States has allowed this network to persist, indeed to grow in complexity and reach.

Only by extinguishing ISIS can the United States begin to reassert its authority and put the jihadists on the defensive. But increasing the number and pace of drone and air strikes will not be enough. The number of U.S. ground forces in Iraq must be dramatically increased, and America seriously must work to remove the cause of the Syrian civil war: the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad, whocontinues to use chemical weapons, has entered into a de facto alliance with our terrorist adversary, and is reconstituting his nuclear weapons program.

Above all, America must cease pretending that Muslim rage is something the United States can ignore and avoid or is powerless against or cannot fight over there. We must fight it over there, or be resigned to terrorist attacks over here. Again and again and again.

Also see:

Mainstream Media Rips Obama Over Foreign Policy Deceit in State of the Union

 

Washington Free Beacon, by David Rutz, January 21, 2015 

NBC and CNN correspondents took down false claims President Obama made on foreign policy during his State of the Union on Tuesday, calling it “not close to reality” and a depiction of a world that doesn’t exist.

Obama drew criticism even before the address, when a leaked excerpt showed he would praise American leadership for “stopping ISIL,” another name for the Islamic State, terrorizing the Middle East. NBC’s Richard Engel outlined how that was an absurd claim during special coverage of the address Tuesday, saying the Obama administration’s strategy was “disjointed” and that selling it as a success was “disingenuous.”

“It sounded like the president was outlining a world that he wishes we were all living in, but which is very different than the world that you just described with terror raids taking place across Europe, ISIS very much on the move,” he said. “One thing the president said is that ‘American leadership, including our military power, is stopping ISIL’s advance.’ That just isn’t the case, according to military officials that I’ve been speaking to.”

Engel also debunked a claim Obama made about “supporting moderate Syrian opposition” to help in the effort against the Islamic State.

“That effectively isn’t happening,” Engel said. “There is no real support for the moderate Syrian opposition. In fact, one military official told me that they are calling the moderate Syrian opposition the unicorn because they have not been able to find it.”

Bottom line, Engel said, was “there’s not a lot of success stories to be talking about in foreign policy right now … The rose-colored glasses through which he was viewing the foreign policy were so rose-colored that I think they don’t even reflect the world that we’re living in.”

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell expressed similar points about Obama’s deceit on his record.

“His projection of success against terrorism and against ISIL in particular is not close to reality,” she said. “It’s hard to see the progress that the president talked about.”

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said such claims put Obama on “questionable ground.”

Even MSNBC’s Chris Matthews pondered about the “real world” that “he didn’t really talk about.”

Al Qaeda plotting massive deadly attacks on West, Britain’s MI5 chief says

 

Fox News, January 09, 2015:

Al Qaeda militants are planning an attack on the West, aimed at inflicting mass casualties on transport systems or at “iconic targets,” the head of Britain’s MI5 Security Service warned Thursday.

“A group of core al Qaeda terrorists in Syria is planning mass casualty attacks against the West,” Director General Andrew Parker said in a rare public speech to a select group at MI5 headquarters in London, Reuters reported. The last time Parker made a public speech was in October 2013.

“We know that terrorists based in Syria harbor… ambitions towards the UK – trying to direct attacks against our country, and exhorting extremists here to act independently,” Parker said.

The remarks were planned before, but delivered after Wednesday’s terror attack in Paris, when Islamic extremists stormed into the office of a French satirical newspaper, leaving 12 people dead.

Parker said trained al Qaeda militants in Syria plan to “cause large-scale loss of life, often by attacking transport systems or iconic targets” in the West.

A former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency told Fox News that Parker’s remarks jibe with current U.S. intelligence regarding al Qaeda’s ongoing attempts at mass casualty attacks and targeting iconic Western symbols.

U.S. and European intelligence suggests al Qaeda militants from Pakistan have traveled to embattled Syria, where they can find British volunteers to attack in the U.K., Sky reported.  Parker said about 600 British extremists had traveled to Syria to join the ISIS terror group, which have recently taken control of large areas of Syria and Iraq.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told Fox News Parker was referring to the “Khorrasan” group in northern Syria.

“We face a very serious level of threat that is complex to combat and unlikely to abate significantly for some time,” Parker told the crowd.

While ISIS is the newest threat to the West, Parker suggested al Qaeda still has ambitions for a large-scale attack. He also discussed the challenges of stopping attacks by self –started “lone wolves.”

“We believe that since October 2013 there have been more than 20 terrorist plots either directed or provoked by extremist groups,” he said, citing deadly attacks in Europe, Canada and Australia. He said security services have stopped three potentially lethal terrorist plots inside Britain alone in recent months.

It is harder, he said, for agents to disrupt plans of small groups or “lone wolves” who act spontaneously, with minimal planning but deadly effect. The individuals are not part of disciplined, sophisticated networks, and often act with little or no warning.

Parker said the terrorists’ sophisticated use of social media has been successful in inciting British nationals to carry out violence.

“The dark places from where those who wish us harm can plot and plan are increasing,” Parker said.

Security experts say an Internet-driven, generalized rage against Western society can spark an attack at any time — like the massacre in Paris, an attack on a Jewish Museum in Belgium, or the slaying of a soldier in the streets of London.

Al Qaeda was responsible for the September 11, 2001 U.S. attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, and a suicide bomb attack on commuters in London on July 7, 2005 that left 52 people dead.

Fox’s Jennifer Griffin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.  

***

Read about the seven phases of al-Qaeda’s 20 year master plan. We are about to enter Phase 6 – “total confrontation”

ISIS PREPARES TO ATTACK ISRAEL IN NORTH AND SOUTH PINCER MOVEMENT

ISIS-propaganda-video-AFP

Breitbart, by CHRISS W. STREET, Dec, 24, 2014:

With ISIS continuing to hold the upper hand in Syria and Iraq, it appears that the terrorist network is planning what military strategists call a pincer movement to attack the Israeli homeland from the north and south. Three Syrian rebel groups switched loyalties to gain ISIS support for attacks on the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, according to a report by the Fiscal Times. ISIS is now able to coordinate with Egyptian ISIS-aligned terror group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis in Sinai to simultaneously pressure Israel’s northern and southern borders.

As of Dec. 11, 2014, the total cost of U.S. operations against ISIS since aerial bombing missions began on August 8, 2014 is about $2 billion and the current daily cost is $8.1 million, according to data released by a Pentagon spokesman Commander Bill Urban.

Although the U.S. led Coalition Joint Task Force named “Operation Inherent Resolve” claims to have impacted ISIS command and control, resupply and maneuvering in Iraq and Syria, the number of ISIS fighters is still growing rapidly. No one is claiming that the bombing has slowed down ISIS recruiting of foreign fighters.

As a testament on the difficulty of using planes to fight ISIS on the ground, after hundreds of aerial sorties in the strategic border town of Kobani, only 50 ISIS fighters have been killed. The PR value of being “at war” with the U.S. continues to swell ISIS regional and international ranks.

Despite huge amounts of CIA support to the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army, large numbers of moderate rebels armed and trained by the United States in northern Syrian Idlib Province either surrendered or defected in November to the al-Qaeda Jabhat affiliated al-Nusra Front. ISIS and al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, are now the overwhelmingly dominant rebel groups in the country.

An Iraqi field commander said last week that U.S. military forces had their first ground combat clash with ISIS warriors on December 16, when they had to come to the aid of Iraqi Army unit. After what was trumpeted as six weeks of defeats in Iraq, ISIS is making gains across the western province of al-Anbar, threatening to defeat the Iraqi military forces and their Sunni tribal allies to take control of all of eastern Syria and western Iraq.

Al-Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade has controlled an area near the Jordan-Israel border for two years and has been regularly bombed by Israel Defense Forces and taken UN peace-keeping hostages several times. But fearing the loss of clout in southern Syria, Al-Nusra attacked the headquarters of their former allies, the al-Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade, in early December. Al-Yarmuk and two smaller groups with hundreds of fighters near the Golan Heights repelled the attacks, and then pledged allegiance last week to ISIS, which they say has replaced Al-Qaeda as the future of Islam.

ISIS has been criticized by many Arabs and Sunni extremists for fighting Muslims instead of making war on Israel. A coordinated attack on Israel would be a PR bonanza for ISIS’s popularity and undoubtedly would spur recruitment and funding efforts. Most of ISIS’s top military commanders are former senior officers in Saddam Hussein’s million man army. Facing the U.S. in the 1991 First Gulf War, Saddam hurled hundreds of Scud missiles at Israel in an effort to inflame the entire Middle East by goading the Jewish State into the Gulf War.

ISIS has proven that air power alone cannot defeat their network. Luring Israel to make a preemptive ground attack against ISIS and declare the Caliphate as Israel’s main adversary would quickly undermine the stated and unstated Arab support against ISIS from Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for Operation Inherent Resolve.

Israel has used its highly capable air force to attack southern Syria many times since the beginning of Syrian Civil War in 2011. In June 2013, when Austria withdrew its 370 UN peacekeepers from the Golan Heights due to deteriorating security conditions, Israel was forced to move in tanks and heavy weapons to engage Syrian rebels.

A senior Israeli officer earlier this week said that in response to al-Yarmuk declaring loyalty to ISIS, the IDF has regrouped and reinforced its forces in the southern Golan Heights, according to A-Sharq Al-Awsat and Lebanese media. The action follows the Israeli Army’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps “Vulture” battalion week-long Golan Heights maneuvers in late November.

The National Security “Not Top 10″ of 2014

obamalibya (1)By Patrick Poole:

With the world descending into chaos driven in no small measure by the incoherent, contradictory and frequently non-existent foreign policy of the Obama administration, it was difficult this year to narrow the field for this year’s biggest national security blunders. The task seemed so formidable, I nearly abandoned the endeavor.

But undaunted, I present to you the National Security “Not Top 10” of 2014, in no particular order.

(For past editions of my “Not Top 10”, see: 2012, 2011, 2010)

1) Befriending “moderate Al-Qaeda” in Syria:

There are some ideas so at war with reason and reality they can only exist in the fetid Potomac fever swamps of DC think tanks and foreign policy community. Such was the case in January when three of the best and brightest from those ranks published an article in Foreign Affairs (the same publication that in 2007 brought us the “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood”) contending that the US needed to “befriend” the Syrian jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham as some kind of counter to more extreme jihadist groups, like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. The precedent they cited was the US failure to designate the Taliban (!!!) after 9/11.

Mind you, at the time they wrote this, one of Ahrar al-Sham’s top leaders was a lieutenant for Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri who openly declared himself a member of Al-Qaeda. After most of their leadership was wiped out in a bombing in September, they have gravitated closer to the jihadist groups they were supposed to counter and their positions have been bombed by the US – much to the consternation of other “vetted moderate” rebel groups. So ridiculous was their proposition that the original subtitle of their article “An Al-Qaeda Affiliate Worth Befriending” was changed online to “An Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Worth Befriending” in the hopes of minimizing the absurdity of their case.

2) Obama Administration deploys three hashtag divisions in response to Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As Ukrainians made their bid to free themselves from Russia’s interference, Putin responded by deploying tanks and troops into Ukraine in violation of the1994 Budapest Memorandum. Obama’s rejoinder was to give a speech and to deploy three divisions of State Department employees all armed with a #UnitedForUkraine hashtag. Hilarity ensued as the Russian Foreign Ministry counterattacked by hijacking the hashtag, prompting State Department spox Jen Psaki to decry, “Let’s hope the Kremlin will live by the promise of hashtag,” leaving many asking: Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

3) Obama: ISIS is the “JV team”.

In January President Obama sat down for an interview with the New Yorker, and when asked about ISIS gains in Iraq, he likened them to the JV team, saying ““The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” Those words came back to haunt him as ISIS surged in both Syria and Iraq, particular when Obama authorized missile strikes against ISIS in August. Even then Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken defended the president’s “JV team” remark, saying they didn’t pose the threat to America as much as Al-Qaeda. A few week later, the Washington Post noted the attempts to spin the president’s statement. By September, Obama laughably claimed in an interview on Meet the Press that he wasn’t talking about ISIS in his New Yorker interview. But even the notoriously biased Politifact rated his walk-back as “false” and two weeks ago the Washington Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler branded Obama’s “JV team” spin as “the lie of the year”.

4) State Dept Official denies Boko Haram targeting Christians.

Just weeks after the Nigerian terrorist group abducted nearly 300 Christian school girls in Chibok and committed them to sexual slavery, State Department undersecretary Sarah Sewall denied in a congressional hearing that Christians were being targeted. As I noted in an article here at PJ Media earlier this month on disturbing trends in Nigeria, the burning of churches and the abduction and murder of Christians continues to intensify, with more than 1,000 churches burned in just a few weeks earlier this year.

Readers might recall that this is the same State Department that in April 2012 was telling Congress that Boko Haram was not driven by religious ideology the day after the group bombed a church during an Easter service that killed 39 worshippers. Not only did the State Department vehemently defend not designating Boko Haram a terrorist organization, this year we discovered that they intentionally lied to Congress about the threat posed by the group. Having only designated them barely a year ago, 2014 has been Boko Haram’s deadliest year yet, with 9,000 killed, 1.5 million people displaced, and 800 schools destroyed. Nigerian authorities still complain that the Obama administration is reluctant to provide the country what it needs to fight the Boko Haram terror insurgency.

5) Homeland Security adviser’s pro-caliphate tweet used by ISIS recruiters.

Twitter proved to be the downfall of Homeland Security Advisor Council Senior Fellow Mohamed Elibiary, when he was unceremoniously let go by DHS in September following a long string of extremist social media statements. Critics, including myself, had noted Elibiary long history of promoting radical Islamic groups and publicly defending terrorist supporters. Things began to unravel when earlier this year he tweeted that America was “an Islamic country with an Islamically compliant constitution,” but the wheels definitely came off when he tweeted about the inevitability of the return of an Islamic caliphate – a statement that was later used by ISIS in their recruiting efforts. After his dismissal, which even international media took note of, I talked with Michelle Fields here at PJTV about Elibiary’s highly controversial tenure at DHS.

Read more at PJ Media

NY Times Admits: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Under Effective Al-Qaeda Control

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, Dec. 28, 2014:

A remarkable report by Anne Barnard of the New York Times this weekend confirms my multiple reports here at PJ Media about the increased alliance between the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.

As Barnard reports:

In northern and eastern Syria, where Mr. Assad’s opponents won early victories and once dreamed of building self-government, the nationalist rebel groups calling themselves the Free Syrian Army are forced to operate under the extremists’ umbrellas, to go underground or to flee, according to Syrian insurgents, activists and two top commanders of the American-financed F.S.A. groups.

Two weeks ago I reported that Jabhat al-Nusra had used U.S. TOW anti-tank missiles in the rebels’ seizure of the Syrian Army’s base in Wadi al-Deif. The terror group posted a video showing the use of the TOW missiles in the battle (at ~3:50):

 

Nusra fans on Twitter were also noting the U.S. missiles being used:

Tow missile

Now Barnard confirms that FSA elements were fighting at Wadi al-Deif under the direction and/or control of Jabhat al-Nusra:

The fall of the army base at Wadi al-Deif, which straddles an important supply route in Idlib Province, proved the Nusra Front’s dominance, they said. Other insurgents had long besieged the base without victory. Nusra succeeded after seizing much of the province from Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, two of several groups that until recently, American officials were calling the opposition’s new hope […]

How exactly the Wadi al-Deif battle unfolded remains murky, with different commanders giving different versions. But reports and images from the operation make two things clear: antitank missiles were used, and Nusra claimed the victory. That means that the American-backed fighters could advance only by working with the Nusra Front, which the United States government lists as a terrorist group, or that they have lost the weapons to the Nusra fighters, effectively joined the group or been forced to follow its orders.

One commander of a group that received antitank missiles said that some F.S.A. fighters were forced to operate them in the battle on behalf of the Nusra Front, which had captured them from American-backed groups — a turn of events that he worried would lead the United States to cut off support […]

Abu Kumayt, a fighter with the Syrian Revolutionaries Front who said he fought in the battle under cover, gave a slightly different version. He said that groups with the antitank missiles fought alongside Nusra fighters and under their command — but that only Nusra and its Islamist ally Ahrar al-Sham were allowed to enter the base when it fell. Nusra, he said, lets groups vetted by the United States keep the appearance of independence, so that they will continue to receive American supplies.

Earlier this month I noted reports from the Los Angeles Times and McClatchy that U.S.-backed units trained under a covert CIA program were openly operating with Nusra in southern Syria while other “vetted moderate” groups who had received heavy weaponry from the U.S. were surrendering their weapons to Nusra or delivering them to another hardcore jihadist group, Ahrar al-Sham.

Perhaps even more worrying is the $500 million in weapons that the FSA has surrendered to ISIS and admissions by FSA commanders that they are operating with both Nusra and ISIS. And last week a German journalist who spent 10 days embedded with ISIS in Iraq and Syria told France24 that ISIS is obtaining weapons supplied by Western governments and being sold by the FSA:

Todenhofer went on to say that the IS militants are being armed by the West – if only indirectly – as Western moves to arm moderate Syrian rebels have backfired.

“They buy the weapons that we give to the Free Syrian Army, so they get Western weapons – they get French weapons … I saw German weapons, I saw American weapons,” he said.

“The best seller of weapons is the Free Syrian Army, which is financed by NATO, financed probably also by France, but at least by the United States.”

So it is no wonder that the administration is openly ditching the FSA.

Thus, the heart of Obama’s three-year policy in Syria has collapsed into absolute catastrophe. In an interview in August with Tom Friedman of the Times, Obama even admitted that the belief that arming the Syrian rebels would have changed the situation in Syria had “always been a fantasy.” And yet it was the fantasy they pursued.

But at the same time the Obama administration was quickly abandoning its own policy, Republican congressional leaders, namely John Boenher in the House and Mitch McConnell in the Senate, were finally buying into backing the the so-called “vetted moderates” wholesale, approving $500 million in September over the objections of sizable portions of their own caucuses in both the House and the Senate, thus necessitating Democrats support to pass the measure in the House.

Despite the wholesale turn of the FSA into the orbit of al-Qaeda, its chief congressional champion — Sen. John McCain — remains undaunted. Despite clear and undisputed evidence of the FSA working in collaboration with Nusra, and even operating U.S.-supplied heavy weapons in support of the Al-Qaeda affiliate, John McCain was meeting with FSA leaders in Turkey earlier today and calling for more U.S. support:

McCain mtg with FSA

Unfortunately for McCain, the prospects of the FSA ever recovering and being an effective fighting force against ISIS, Nusra and other jihadist groups, let alone the Assad regime, are remote at best, or as Obama himself has said, a fantasy. As even the Times now admits, the FSA is operating as a de-facto extension of al-Qaeda in Syria. And with clear supporting evidence to that effect, John McCain’s continuing call to arm and support the FSA begins to hover perilously close to material support for terrorism.

Turkey, Friend or Foe?

turkish-prime-minister-turkey-436x350by Kenneth R. Timmerman:

As the battle for the Syrian border city of Kobani raged and prospects of an ISIS-led massacre of thousands of innocent civilians loomed this fall, the BBC interviewed the vice-chairman of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP Party in Ankara.

Why hadn’t Turkey responded to NATO’s request to launch joint military operations to halt the ISIS assault on Kobani? How could Turkey just sit back and watch so many innocent civilians die, BBC correspondent Jonathan Marcus asked.

The replies from Yasin Aktay are telling.

“Why is Kobani the most important problem?” he asked. “There is no tragedy in Kobani as cried out by the terrorist PKK. There is a war between two terrorist groups. You mean we should… favor one terrorist organization over another?”

The AKP deputy leader went on to explain the calculus of death as seen from Turkey’s point of view. “Less than 1000 people have been killed in Kobani, but more than 300,000 people have been killed in Syria. Which is more important?”

Aktay’s remarks reveal much more than just a callous disregard for the Kurds, who comprise roughly one-third of Turkey’s overall population, or for the popular Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which broke off peace talks with the Turkish government in October to protest Turkey’s stranglehold over the Kurds in Kobani.

According to Vice-president Joe Biden, Erdogan himself admitted that Turkey had ordered border guards to turn a blind eye as new ISIS recruits flooded across Turkey’s borders to join the battle against Assad in Syria. (Okay, when Erdogan was informed of Biden’s comments, he hit the roof and demanded that “loose-lips” Uncle Joe retract them).

In response to a Harvard University student’s question whether the U.S. could have intervened earlier in Syria, Biden went even further:

“[O]ur allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks were great friends – and I have the greatest relationship with Erdogan, which I just spent a lot of time with – the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.

“Now you think I’m exaggerating – take a look. Where did all of this go? So now what’s happening? All of a sudden everybody’s awakened because this outfit called ISIL which was Al Qaeda in Iraq, which when they were essentially thrown out of Iraq, found open space in territory in eastern Syria, work with Al Nusra who we declared a terrorist group early on and we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them. So what happened? Now all of a sudden – I don’t want to be too facetious – but they had seen the Lord. Now we have – the President’s been able to put together a coalition of our Sunni neighbors, because America can’t once again go into a Muslim nation and be seen as the aggressor – it has to be led by Sunnis to go and attack a Sunni organization.” [h/t to Mark Langfan for excerpting this Q&A from Biden’s speech]

But Erdogan’s treachery goes much deeper.

Kurdish sources tell me that the initial Turkey-al Nusra front agreement was made more than two years ago, and included Turkey’s agreement to help smuggle arms to the Syrian rebels from Benghazi and other parts of Libya.

Earlier this year, Turkish and Qatari intelligence officials met with senior ISIS leaders in Jordan to plot the take-over of Mosul and the predominantly Christian Nineveh Plain.

Also at the meeting was a representative of Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) president Massoud Barzani, who has worked closely with the Turkish government and has spearheaded massive Turkish investment in northern Iraq. Barzani apparently believed ISIS would stop their advance after seizing Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, and ordered his peshmerga fighters to withdraw rather than fight the ISIS advance.

The most dramatic events occurred in Sinjar, when 13,000 peshmerga fighters mysteriously “melted away” in August rather than confront an ISIS assault force of around 1000 men. While much of the national media focused on the plight of the Yazidis, a Shiite sect considered heretical by most Sunnis, ISIS continued to march eastward through the Nineveh plain, massacring the Christians who failed to flee.

Not until they began threatening Erbil, the capital of the KRG, did Barzani apparently realize he had been duped and called on the United States to supply heavy weapons so the peshmerga could halt the ISIS advance. As Kobani was falling, Barzani authorized Kurdish fighters from the PKK and PJAK, who had bases in northern Iraq, to transit through his territory to relieve the besieged city.

Read more at Frontpage

State Department Testimony: Rebels Cannot Defeat Assad

homs-syria-rebel-reutersBreitbart, by FRANCES MARTEL:

The Islamic State has gained momentum in both Syria and Iraq while allegedly “moderate” groups against President Bashar al-Assad in the former nation have suffered increasing setbacks. With the outlook dire, even the U.S. State Department is admitting that a military overthrow of Assad appears far from a viable reality.

Speaking to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, senior State Department official Brett McGurk said the State Department “do not see a situation in which the rebels are able to remove [Assad] from power,” instead noting that Assad’s removal would have to be a “democratic” process.

The admission raises questions regarding President Obama’s continued push to arm and support “moderate” rebels against Assad, citing the use of chemical weapons against civilians, among other human rights violations. The President initially allowed for weapons to reach Syrian rebels who were considered “moderate” in June 2013, in response to allegations and accrued evidence that Assad had used chemical weapons against civilians. At the time, a poll found that 70% of Americans opposed the President’s action.

A year later, Assad appeared nowhere closer to falling, yet the President once again called arming moderate rebels– this time engaging Congress. The President and Congress finally agreed to a $500 million program to train and arm rebels vetted to be moderate.

At the moment, the program is not expected to begin until March, according to Foreign Policy. It aims to train 5,000 rebels per year, but many have criticized it as a slow reaction to a crisis that is bleeding millions of refugees into the outside world a day, not counting those displaced within Syria. A particularly troubling report this week from McClatchyindicates that there is currently little to no support to rebels on the ground from the United States at all– many rebel leaders say they have received nothing– leaving unanswered questions as to where the funding has been going.

Meanwhile, both Assad and the Islamic State have been making gains, as well as the Syrian jihadist group the Al Nusra Front. Al-Nusra, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda, alleged this week that they had used a United Nations vehicle in a terrorist attack in Syria, a milestone for the group’s fight against the West. In Jordan and Afghanistan, the Islamic State’s popularity is only growing, posing the serious danger of a new influx of foreign jihadis into the Syrian war theater.

President Assad remains in power, with increasing confidence. In a recent interview with Paris Match magazine, Assad went so far as to blame the United States for the creation of ISIS, and call airstrikes against ISIS targets within Syria by US and coalition forces “illegal,” despite the consensus that they have helped his army. Of his own rule, Assad remained confident that “we as Syrians will never accept that Syria become a western puppet state”– which is to say, accept his removal from power as long as the United States has a role to play.

The situation leaves reasonable doubt regarding the potential for rebel groups to remove Assad, making McGurk’s comments an almost necessary reality from the State Department. Nonetheless, such comments do not appear to be currently interfering with President Obama’s plans to spend $500 million on training and arming rebels that even his State Department see little potential for victory in.

Also see:

Iran and US Fighting On Same Side Rattles Israeli Defense Officials

by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
December 11, 2014

1065 (1)Confirmation that Iran has joined the air campaign against Islamic State (IS) terrorists in Syria won muted praise from U.S. officials last week. And that development has increased anxiety among Israeli defense officials that budding cooperation between Tehran and Washington will lead to dangerous comprises about Iran’s nuclear program and inadequate action confronting the Islamic Republic’s global terrorist network.

The biggest threat from that network lies just over Israel’s northern border in Lebanon.

On Sunday, according to international media reports, Israeli Air Force jets bombed targets in and around Damascus. The strikes likely targeted advanced weapons that were destined for Hizballah depots in southern Lebanon, often hidden in apartment buildings in Shi’ite villages.

With more than 100,000 rockets and missiles, Hizballah has the largest arsenal of any terrorist organization in the world, and its heavy involvement in the Syrian civil war on behalf of dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime is giving it plenty of experience in ground warfare.

Israel did not confirm any involvement in the recent air strikes, but it is deeply involved in a covert war against an international Iranian-led weapons smuggling network that is designed to provide Hizballah and other radical terror entities around the Middle East with an array of sophisticated arms.

This network is run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, which oversees the smuggling of powerful weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon, often via Syria. The Iranian network also attempts to send arms to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, to radical Shi’ite militias in Iraq that fight the Islamic State, and to Shi’ite Houthi rebels that have taken over Yemen’s capital.

Iran’s Quds Force and Hizballah, both backers of the Assad regime, have set up terrorism sleeper cells around the Middle East and beyond, according to Israeli intelligence assessments. Some of these cells are routinely activated and ordered to strike Israeli and Jewish targets.

Israeli intelligence agencies quietly work to stop the planned attacks, any one of which, if successful, could spark a wider regional conflict.

Meanwhile, Tehran continues to pursue a nuclear program and develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

According to international media reports, Israel targeted shipments of Hizballah-bound weapons in Syria five times in 2013, and once in Lebanon in 2014. This has led Hizballah to retaliate by planting two bombs on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon appeared to hint at Israel’s role in the latest Syria strikes, by saying that “those who seek to arm Israel’s enemies will know that we can reach anywhere, at any time, and through any means to thwart their plans.”

As this covert, high-stakes struggle continues to rage against the background of Iran’s creeping nuclear program, a growing number of Israeli defense officials are expressing concern that the Obama administration may be willing to cooperate with Iran and its radical Shi’ite allies in the war against the Islamic State.

The officials stress the flourishing defense ties between Israel and the U.S., which are absolutely vital for Israeli security, and express gratitude for continuous American defense assistance.

However, some have become highly critical of the way the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State sees Iran as a de facto member.

Israeli defense officials wonder out loud whether the West, led by the U.S., is falling into a dangerous trap, by teaming up with the radical Shi’ite axis in the Middle East.

To be sure, no one within the Israeli defense establishment doubts the need to tackle the Sunni Islamic State. Israel is quietly providing any assistance necessary to the anti-ISIL coalition.

Yet it is the prospect of tactical cooperation between the U.S. and Iran against IS, and the danger that the cooperation could lead to Western concessions to Iran over its nuclear program that haunts some.

The failure by Washington to take tangible steps against Iran’s global terrorism network is also a source of concern. This network is growing in Syria, along with Iran’s presence there, and over the past 12 months, all of the cross-border terror attacks launched from Syria into northern Israel have been the work of elements linked to either Hezbollah or Iran, one senior military official has said.

These worries seem to be bolstered by comments like those recently made by Secretary of State John Kerry, who welcomed Iranian air strikes on Islamic State positions in Iraq, describing them as “positive.”

Unlike the Islamic State, the Shi’ite radical axis enjoys state sponsorship from an Islamic Republic that is three to six months away from nuclear weapons.

This situation makes it a more urgent problem for global security, and would seem to justify a stance that views both radical Sunnis and radical Shi’ites as threats to international peace.

Driven by an extremist religious-ideological doctrine, the Iranian-led axis views moderate Sunni governments which partner with the West – like Egypt and Jordan – as enemies, seeks to push American influence out of the Middle East, and promotes the idea of Iranian hegemony as a first step to establishing eventual Iranian global dominance.

Iran views itself as the authentic Islamic caliphate, and seeks to export its influence as far as possible. Eventually, it would like to fuel conflict across the region through its proxies under a nuclear umbrella.

“The success of the Iranian revolution influences to this day the ambition for an Islamic caliphate,” Ya’alon said this month, in an attempt to illustrate the imminent danger posed by Iran’s role in the world.

Disappointment in Israel has been expressed over what one official said was the West’s “support” for radical Shi’ites, and its willingness to ignore Iranian threats.

Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have expressed concern about the U.S. agreeing to a “bad deal” with Iran over its nuclear program since talks started. Thus far, those fears have not yet been realized.

The Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center published a report last week that explicitly warned about Iranian-American cooperation against IS, which it said could occur at Israel’s expense.

“Despite Iran’s basic hostility towards the United States, and despite Iran’s subversion of American interests in the Middle East, it might collaborate with the United States against ISIS and the global jihad in Syria and Iraq, the common enemy,” the reportsaid. “Such collaboration might occur at Israel’s expense and harm its vital interests (for example, Iran’s concessions on the nuclear issue). In addition, collaborating against ISIS might increase Iranian influence in Syria and Iraq, and might also strengthen Hizballah’s status in Lebanon, possibly strengthening the Iranian-led radical camp in the Middle East.”

The report is another signal of concerns in Jerusalem that Washington’s war on IS could lead it to make concessions to Tehran on a nuclear program.

Such an outcome would entrench and legitimize Iran’s position as a state on the threshold of nuclear arms possession, an outcome that, in Jerusalem’s eyes, would jeopardize both regional and international security to an unacceptable degree.

Yaakov Lappin is the Jerusalem Post’s military and national security affairs correspondent, and author of The Virtual Caliphate (Potomac Books), which proposes that jihadis on the internet have established a virtual Islamist state.

What is hiding behind Islamic State?

Photo: Press Association

Photo: Press Association

Chatham House, December 2014, Volume 70, Number 6, by Nadim Shehadi – h/t Fortuna’s Corner

In early 18th-century Aleppo there was a schism in the Greek Orthodox Church, and a new sect emerged called the Melkite Church, in communion with Rome. The Melkites, also called Greek Catholics, needed their own church, but it was illegal to build a new church in the lands of the Ottoman Empire; however, if a Christian church already existed, it was protected and it was forbidden to tear it down.

To build their church, the Melkites resorted to a trick that is practised to this day and that may help explain the complex phenomenon that we call Islamic State. The illegal new church was built in hiding, inside a hangar or a large barn, away from the eyes of the law and of rival sects. After a while the Melkites were betrayed and the barn had to be torn down, revealing a fully built church. Once it was out in the open, the church acquired legitimacy and permanency.

This practice is still followed in some slums and refugee camps where only temporary structures with tin or corrugated iron roofs are allowed. To get round this law, homes with solid roofs are built underneath the canopy of a temporary roof; after a while, the tin roof is removed. Once these solid homes are in the open, they are subject to different laws and are de facto recognized.

Islamic State is in fact such a barn or tin roof under which are hiding a complex set of forces; they would be illegal if they tried to consolidate their power over a territory but they will have to be recognized once the roof is removed.

One element is the General Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries, former Ba’ath Party officers from Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army with over thirty years of experience ruling the land. Many have been in hiding or in exile, given sanctuary and support by the Syrian regime.

Another important element is the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, a Sufi order which is powerful in the region and with connections that are not well understood. They include senior members of the AK party of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Muslim clergy in Syria and Lebanon.

The third element are Sunni tribes in the western provinces of Iraq who are disaffected with the policies of Shia hegemony of the former prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, and bitter at being abandoned by the Americans with whom they collaborated to get rid of Al-Qaeda in Iraq during the ‘Surge’ in 2007-08. Some of the reported massacres in western Iraq, brutal as they are, may have more to do with Ba’ath-style re-establishment of control in these provinces than with what we think of as the jihadism of Islamic State.

These disaffected Sunnis are the real forces hiding inside the barn. They have local support and connections that may explain the speed with which they took over territory; they may be led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, second in command in Saddam’s regime and the King of Spades in the US’s deck of cards. He is described as the hidden sheikh of the Naqshbandi order.

The fourth element – the one everyone can see – is composed of the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq most of whom have been released or escaped from Syrian and Iraqi jails. These had played an important role in destabilizing Iraq in 2006/7, a role facilitated by the Syrian regime.

This element, joined by foreign fighters, is the barn inside which the rest of that toxic mixture of disaffected groups is hidden. The purported Salafi Islamist creed of Islamic State is incompatible with the other elements within it: the secular nationalism of the Ba’athists is anathema to the so-called caliphate proclaimed by Islamic State; Sufis such as the Naqshbandis are considered heretics and apostates; and tribal leaders are always wary of losing followers to cults.

Islamic State has been described as a virtual entity, its visibility a product of a sophisticated media strategy designed to make it seem like the fount of all evil. This propaganda campaign created the barn and at the same time created the urge to destroy it.

There is much confusion about Islamic State in international policy circles and better understanding of the phenomenon is crucial. All the opposing forces in the region have suddenly found themselves on the same side against Islamic State. In this new alignment, some voices are calling for western re-engagement with the Assad regime in Syria and a shift away from America’s traditional allies among the Gulf states in favour of Iran. The US Vice-President Joe Biden expressed this confusion publicly when he said that US allies were part of the problem.

If some of the forces incorporated in Islamic State represent legitimate elements of Sunni grievance, then focusing on the ‘caliphate’ as the ultimate enemy is diverting attention from two important causes of Sunni radicalization: one is the revolt in Syria, where the regime is now free to barrel bomb its cities and the rebels feel abandoned by the West. The second is the Iranian-sponsored militias such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and many more in Iraq which are now tacitly accepted by the US as part of the fight against Islamic State and have a free hand in their offensives against the Sunni population.

These militias in Iraq, clones of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, have undermined the US-trained Iraqi army. With the army now barely operational, these militias are at the forefront of the fight against Islamic State. Like an arsonist posing as a firefighter, Iran and Syria are now proposing themselves as part of the solution to a problem they helped to create.

The Americans are not blameless. The increase in radical elements in Iraq is also to a large extent a consequence of three decisions taken by the Americans after the invasion of Iraq: The disbanding of the Iraqi army which left its officers outside the system; the crippling of state institutions through the wholesale de-Ba’athification process; and the timing and manner of US withdrawal, which left a vacuum to be filled by Iran.

The moral of the story is that fighting Islamic State in alliance with Iran and Assad is futile: it will increase grievances and exacerbate the problem. What is required is to address these grievances by protecting the Syrian population from the regime and curbing the power of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Iraq and the rest of the region.

The US, instead of defusing Sunni-Shia tension, is sending an inflammatory message: that it is ready to work with Assad and Iran to fight Islamic State and, while engaging with Iran on the nuclear issue, it will disregard Tehran’s power plays in the region.

Engagement should be with the real forces which operate under the cover of Islamic State; these include some unpalatable elements but evidence suggests that they have gained ground for a reason, and if that reason is not addressed they will gain even more.

US-Backed Syrian Rebels Ally with Al-Qaeda in South, Surrender CIA-Supplied Weapons in the North

Syrian rebels pause for prayers in Dara province, in the country's south, in the spring, in an opposition-provided photo. Rebels in the province are fighting to hold onto a strategic crossroads. (Syrian Revolution Against Bashar Assad) http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-south-violence-20141130-story.html

Syrian rebels pause for prayers in Dara province, in the country’s south, in the spring, in an opposition-provided photo. Rebels in the province are fighting to hold onto a strategic crossroads. (Syrian Revolution Against Bashar Assad)
http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-syria-south-violence-20141130-story.html

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, December 2, 2014:

For months I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media about the ongoing cooperation between US-backed “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel units and designated terrorist groups ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. This includes U.S.-backed rebel units who have defected wholesale to ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

Despite multiple reports of this cooperation, in September the congressional GOP leadership jumped on board with Obama’s proposal to spend an additional $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates” just weeks before the Obama administration abandoned the Free Syrian Army that had been the primary beneficiary of U.S. support for the past three years.

Now reports this weekend indicate growing cooperation between U.S.-backed rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra operating in southern Syria.

According to the LA Times:

Opposition activists reported intensified government bombardment in and around Sheik Maskin and the arrival of battle-tested loyalist reinforcements.

Fighting along with U.S.-backed rebels were elements of Al Nusra Front, the official Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

In a Facebook posting, Al Nusra supporters reported “vicious battles” in the Sheik Maskin area. Earlier posts also eulogized a prominent Al Nusra commander, Abu Humam Jazrawi, who was killed in the fighting.

Al Nusra’s participation illustrates how Western-supported rebel groups often cooperate with the Al Qaeda franchise, though both sides try to play down the extent of coordination. Recent clashes between Al Nusra Front and U.S.-backed rebels in northwestern Syria do not appear to have broken the de facto alliance between the Al Qaeda affiliate and West-backed fighters in the south. (emphasis added)

Meanwhile, in northern Syria as “vetted moderate” groups were forming an umbrella with hardcore jihadist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, other U.S.-backed units were surrendering to Jabhat al-Nusra (a trend I noted last month) and turning over their CIA-provided arms to Ahrar al-Sham, McClatchy reports:

On Friday, as the groups were meeting here, the Nusra Front stormed the bases of two moderate rebel groups in Syria’s north: the Ansar Brigades in Idlib and the Haqq Front in Hama. The two groups, both of which were receiving U.S. support through a covert CIA program, surrendered to Nusra, delivered their weapons to Ahrar al Sham and returned to their homes. (emphasis added)

And today Syria analyst Aron Lund noted that the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army signed an agreement last week with Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham for the Qalamoun area near the Lebanese border guaranteeing the imposition of sharia and creating a mutual defense pact.

The “vetted moderate” follies continue.

Qatar Said To Run A Covert Training Camp For Syrian Rebels With U.S. Help

Soldiers walk at a Turkish military outpost overlooking the Syrian city of Kobani, on a hilltop outside Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Soldiers walk at a Turkish military outpost overlooking the Syrian city of Kobani, on a hilltop outside Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Huffington Post, By Amena Bakr, 11/26/2014

DOHA, Nov 26 (Reuters) – At a desert base, Gulf state Qatar is covertly training moderate Syrian rebels with U.S. help to fight both President Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State and may include more overtly Islamist insurgent groups, sources close to the matter say.

The camp, south of the capital between Saudi Arabia’s border and Al Udeid, the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, is being used to train the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other moderate rebels, the sources said.

Reuters could not independently identify the participants in the program or witness activity inside the base, which lies in a military zone guarded by Qatari special forces and marked on signposts as a restricted area.

But Syrian rebel sources said training in Qatar has included rebels affiliated to the “Free Syrian Army” from northern Syria.

The sources said the effort had been running for nearly a year, although it was too small to have a significant impact on the battlefield, and some rebels complained of not being taught advanced techniques.

The training is in line with Qatar’s self-image as a champion of Arab Spring uprisings and Doha has made no secret of its hatred of Assad.

Small groups of 12 to 20 fighters are identified in Syria and screened by the Central Intelligence Agency, the sources said.

Once cleared of links with “terrorist” factions, they travel to Turkey and are then flown to Doha and driven to the base.

GROUND FORCE

“The U.S. wanted to help the rebels oust Assad but didn’t want to be open about their support, so to have rebels trained in Qatar is a good idea, the problem is the scale is too small,” said a Western source in Doha.

The CIA declined to comment, as did Qatar’s foreign ministry and an FSA spokesman in Turkey.

It is not clear whether the Qatari program is coordinated with a strategy of Western and Gulf countries to turn disparate non-Islamist rebel groups into a force to combat the militants.

Such efforts have been hampered by Western hesitancy about providing significant military aid, because it could end up with extremists. Gulf states dislike the West’s emphasis on fighting Islamic State. Assad is the bigger problem, they say.

“Moderate rebels from the FSA and other groups have been flown in to get trained in things like ambush techniques,” said a source close to the Qatari government who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic.

“The training would last a few months, maybe two or three, and then a new group would be flown in, but no lethal weapons were supplied to them,” one of the sources said.

SCREENING PROCESS

As the war against Assad has dragged on, frustrated rebels asked their trainers for more advanced techniques, such as building improvised explosive devices (IEDs), requests which were always denied.

“They complain a lot and say that going back they need more weapons or more training in IEDs but that’s not something that’s given to them,” said a Qatar-based defense source.

The Qatar project was conceived before the declaration of the hardline Islamic State, when militants belonging to its predecessor organization were not regarded as an international security threat.

The group’s rise in Syria and Iraq has hampered the rebellion: Moderate groups cannot fight Assad when the better-armed Islamic State seeks their destruction as it strives to build its “caliphate.”

In recent weeks, the Qataris, disappointed by lack of progress in the fight against Assad, have started to consider training members of the Islamic Front, a coalition of Islamist rebels less militant than Islamic State or the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, but stronger than the FSA.

None have been trained as yet, but Qatar has sought to identify candidates, the sources say.

Some analysts say screening Islamic Front fighters would be harder than FSA rebels, since some Islamists have switched between various groups.

ISLAMIST NETWORK

Training fighters from Islamic groups could displease fellow Gulf state the United Arab Emirates, which dislikes Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood’s international Islamist network.

But Saudi Arabia, which shares the UAE’s mistrust of the Brotherhood, is more indulgent of moderate Islamist forces when it comes to fighting Assad, diplomats say.

Asked about the Qatari training, a Saudi defense source said: “We are not aware of this training camp, but there’s one thing we agree on: Assad needs to go and we would not oppose any action taken towards that goal.”

To Qatar, ousting Assad remains a priority and youthful Emir Sheik Tamim has said that military efforts to tackle Islamic State will not work while the Syrian president remains in power.

A source who works with rebel groups said Qatar had delivered weapons, mostly mortar bombs, to the Islamic Front and some FSA brigades about two months ago and had paid some salaries for Islamic Front groups.

(Additional reporting by Dasha Afanasieva in Istanbul and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by William Maclean and Giles Elgood)

The Real Turkish Agenda…

ISIS Study Group , November 21, 2014:

Recent reporting has shown that the Erdogan government is still pushing for the PKK to accept the cease-fire they originally agreed to after having been targeted in Turkish military operations last month. The PKK has vehemently denied agreeing to turn their weapons and themselves over to the Turkish government, not that we’re surprised or anything.

PKK rules out government’s talk of disarmament
http://www.todayszaman.com/national_pkk-rules-out-governments-talk-of-disarmament_364726.html

erdogan 33
Erdogan: Really a “generous” kind of guy
Source: Associated Press

One would think that the Turkish Army would’ve taken action in Kobani in light of the death and destruction the Islamic State (IS) has waged along the border. Instead they launched operations against Pehsmerga forces in the village of Daglica, located in the Turkish part of the tri-border region shared with Iraq and Iran. As we’ve predicted, the Turkish military waited until the joint-PKK/YPG Peshmerga forces were degraded to a certain point before launching operations – possibly part of a bid towards establishing that buffer zone they’ve been talking so much about. Other reporting coming out of Turkey last month described clashes taking places in the Tunceli-area of Turkey involving Turkish forces and the PKK. The Turkish government claims their operations are in response to the PKK attacking one of their outposts in the area, but we’re not so sure that’s the real reason for the operations.

Turkish jets bomb Kurdish PKK rebels near Iraq
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29611582

Is Turkey a Reliable Partner In The Fight Against ISIS?
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1916

turkish air force
Turkish F4s (pictured above) and F16s participated in the OPs against the PKK
Source: BBC

The fact that Erdogan is more concerned with ousting the Assad regime should’ve been the first red-flag to the US government when it was framing it’s pseudo-strategy to combat IS, but it would appear this is a case of incompetent analysts working the problem-set or a senior leadership willfully ignoring the recommendations of said analysts. We suspect that it’s the latter in this case since we personally know several analysts who are working the problem-set. They’ve voiced to us their frustrations at being ignored by decision-makers who would prefer to be told “what they want to hear” instead of what they need to hear. Had they listened to their analysts, they would know that Turkey isn’t a dependable ally (and we use the term quite loosely here), and is operating on their own agenda that’s to our detriment. Even after the Erdogan government initially came out with their public statement denying they’re allowing the US military to use their air bases to launch airstrikes against IS, the US government continues to insist that it can get Turkey to get involved and target IS. Unfortunately, the US government’s drumbeat being fed to the mainstream media doesn’t mirror reality. In fact, the much-vaunted “Anti-IS Coalition” appears to be every bit the “Coalition of the Reluctantly Willing” that we’ve assessed it to be.

Read more

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Erdogan: Turkey the Hope of All Peoples in the Region, We Will Be the Architect of a New Middle East

Published on Nov 18, 2014 by MEMRITVVideos

In an October 13, 2014 speech given at Marmara University, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denounced what he claimed was the continued efforts by Western powers to divide the Middle East. He claimed that the hopes of the peoples of the region lie, once again, with Turkey as it was during the days of the Ottoman Empire.

Also see:

6 Failed Policies Obama and the State Department Won’t Stop Pushing

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By Robert Spencer:

Presidents come and presidents go, but the State Department’s foreign policy establishment is forever. And no matter how many times its remedies fail to heal problems (and usually cause worse ones), it keeps on applying them, without an ounce of self-reflection. And in Barack Obama, the lifers at State have a president after their own heart – one whose vision of the world coincides exactly with theirs, and who takes their recommendations without question and fronts for them eagerly, no matter how often and how abysmally they have failed.

Here are six policies that have failed miserably again and again, and yet are still front and center in the Obama administration’s foreign policy planning:

6. Supporting the Afghan regime

The corrupt and treacherous [2] kleptocrat Hamid Karzai is gone, but his legacy lives on. The new president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, is almost certainly still receiving those bags of cash from the CIA [3], and the new regime shows no more interest in accountability than Karzai did. It was revealed Thursday [4]that

nearly $420 million in weapons and other “sensitive items” have gone missing from U.S. Army bases in Afghanistan and are not likely to be recovered due to mismanagement and improper accounting, according to an internal report by the Pentagon’s inspector general obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

These include “some 15,600 pieces of equipment—including ‘weapons, weapons systems, and sensitive items,’” which “went missing in the past year from Army facilities in Bagram and Kandahar, accounting for around $419.5 million in losses, according to the report, which was issued in late October and marked ‘for official use only.’”

Will this slow down the flow of money and materiel to the Afghan regime? Don’t be silly. Despite the regime’s corruption, unwillingness to do anything to curb green-on-blue attacks, and inability to stop the Taliban, this won’t even be a speed bump.

Yet Obama and the State Department have never explained exactly what benefits to the United States will accrue from the massive expenditure and loss of American life in Afghanistan – they know the mainstream media and the Stupid Party will not call them on it, so why bother?

5. Fighting terrorism with money

Late in 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry and Turkish then-Foreign Minister and current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu launched what they called the “Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience,” which CNSNews.com said was intended to “support local communities and organizations to counter extremist ideology and promote tolerance.” It would do this essentially by giving potential jihad terrorists money and jobs – an initiative that proceeds from the false and oft-disproven assumption that poverty causes terrorism.

Kerry demonstrated his faith in this false assumption when he spoke about the importance of “providing more economic opportunities for marginalized youth at risk of recruitment” into jihad groups. The GCTF is devoting $200 million to this project, which it calls “countering violent extremism” (CVE).

Kerry explained:

Getting this right isn’t just about taking terrorists off the street. It’s about providing more economic opportunities for marginalized youth at risk of recruitment. In country after country, you look at the demographics – Egypt, the West Bank – 60 percent of the young people either under the age of 30 or under the age of 25, 50 percent under the age of 21, 40 percent under the age of 18, all of them wanting jobs, opportunity, education, and a future.

This will be $200 million down the drain, for a lack of “economic opportunities for marginalized youth” doesn’t fuel Islamic jihad terrorism in the first place. In reality, study after study have shown that jihadists are not poor and bereft of economic opportunities, but generally wealthier and better educated than their peers. CNS noted that “according to a Rand Corporation report on counterterrorism, prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2009, ‘Terrorists are not particularly impoverished, uneducated, or afflicted by mental disease. Demographically, their most important characteristic is normalcy (within their environment). Terrorist leaders actually tend to come from relatively privileged backgrounds.’ One of the authors of the RAND report, Darcy Noricks, also found that according to a number of academic studies, ‘Terrorists turn out to be more rather than less educated than the general population.’”

But none of this has sunk in among the political elites.

4. Working to topple Assad

Barack Obama has long had Bashar Assad in his sights, but has been stymied by the fact that the only significant opposition to the Assad regime are Islamic jihad groups. Now, however, he thinks he has found a way to square the circle: remove Assad, and the jihadis’ raison d’etre will be gone.

CNN [7] reported Thursday that Obama “has asked his national security team for another review of the U.S. policy toward Syria after realizing that ISIS may not be defeated without a political transition in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.”

Alistair Baskey, spokesman for the National Security Council, explained: “Assad has been the biggest magnet for extremism in Syria, and the President has made clear that Assad has lost all legitimacy to govern.”

The fact that this is even being considered shows that Obama doesn’t take seriously the Islamic State’s proclamations that it is a new caliphate that is going to keep on trying to expand. He thinks they’re just fighting to get Assad removed, and so if he obliges them, they will melt away.

But who does he think will replace Assad? Does he seriously think he can find someone who can immediately marshal enough support to be able to withstand the Islamic State? If he picks an Alawite, the ruler will have the same problems Assad does. If he picks a Sunni, the Islamic State leaders will say he is an apostate puppet of the Westerners, and fight on. Meanwhile, the disruption in Syria will give an opportunity to the Islamic State, which will be the force best situated to take advantage of a power vacuum in Syria.

So what Obama is saying is that to defeat the Islamic State, we have to let the Islamic State win. And you can see his point — at least then it will be out of the headlines and he won’t have to be constantly hearing about it. Or so he thinks.

 

3. Arming the “moderates”

Alistair Baskey also said Thursday that “alongside our efforts to isolate and sanction the Assad regime, we are working with our allies to strengthen the moderate opposition.” Who are the moderates in Syria? In September 2014, Obama said [8]: “We have a Free Syrian Army and a moderate opposition that we have steadily been working with that we have vetted.”

That was over a year after Free Syrian Army fighters entered the Christian village of Oum Sharshouh [9] in July 2013 and began burning down houses and terrorizing the population, forcing 250 Christian families to flee the area. Worthy News reported [10] that just two days later, Free Syrian Army rebels “targeted the residents of al-Duwayr/Douar, a Christian village close to the city of Homs and near Syria’s border with Lebanon….Around 350 armed militants forcefully entered the homes of Christian families who were all rounded-up in the main square of the village and then summarily executed.” And in September 2013, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry praised the Free Syrian Army as “a real moderate opposition,” the FSA took to the Internet [11]to post videos of its attack on the ancient Syrian Christian city of Maaloula, one of the few places where Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken.

Even after all that, Obama was calling them “moderates.”

Read more at PJ Media with videos